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Living Organisms

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| The Effects of Methylmercury in Fish | | | Nicole Lange | 4/4/2011 |


Nicole Lange
Topic Paper
April 4, 2011

The Effects of Methyl Mercury in Fish
Living Organisms, such as Fish, have the capacity to methylate mercury compounds present in pollution. Mercury is most commonly found in industrial waste, mine tailings, agricultural drain water impoundments, and atmospheric disposition from electrical power. The effects of methyl mercury found in fish have more negative than positive effects on our diet and environment. With the growing pollution in our City Rivers and other areas mercury found in fish is becoming more of an anomaly. With many studies it has been proven that the effects of methyl mercury can be devastating in certain situations and in others has somewhat of a positive outcome, however the positives are not from in taking methyl mercury, the only benefits are from eating the proper servings suggested by the American Heart Association. With my research on whether you should cut back in consuming fish because of the contaminates they may carry have been based more on emotion than fact. However, I have found many useful facts that have left me with the conclusion that living aquatic organisms, such as fish, hold great nutrition when measured in appropriate servings for your diet.
Even with the threat of methyl mercury in fish it still is a part of a healthy diet. Fish and other aquatic organisms are the major sources of healthful long-chain omega-3 fats and are also filled with other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium, high in protein, and low in saturated fat. Eating fish is not a bad thing it is just important to watch the amount you eat and most importantly the history of the fish you are in taking. In most cases the best kind of fish to eat is fresh salt water fish. That is not always a guarantee that the fish does not contain methyl mercury, it just may not be as heavily concentrated with methyl mercury as most. Having a healthy fish diet can lead to a good heart and good blood vessels. It is suggested that eating approximately one to two 3-ounce servings of fatty fish a week which would be salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines have the capability to reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent. Eating fish helps fight your chances of getting heart disease in many different ways. The omega-3 fats in fish can protect the heart against the development of any erratic and potentially deadly cardiac rhythmic disturbances. They can also lower your blood pressure and your heart rate, improve the way that your blood vessels function, and, with higher doses it can also be found to lower triglycerides and have the possibility to ease inflammation. This strong and consistently proven scientific evidence of the benefits of eating fish is from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the American Heart Association, and many others who all suggest that everyone should eat fish twice a week. The serving for pregnant women however is adjusted to a much lower in take determined on the trimester of the pregnancy.
Eating fish has its many benefits; however, there are negatives repercussions if you go over the recommended servings. The negative sides of consuming fish are formed in their aquatic environment. Methyl mercury is formed from inorganic mercury from anaerobic organisms which live in lakes, rivers, wetlands, sediments, and the ocean. Most of the fish in the ocean are more likely to be less inhabited by methyl mercury, although the problem still exists there. This process converts inorganic mercury into methyl mercury in its co-existing environment. It can start with the aquatic food chain, which begins with bacteria which then forms to plankton this process builds in concentration as it forms to herbivorous fish and piscivorous fish (aquatic organisms that feed off of other fish). The methyl mercury increases in concentration at each step. With the concentration increase it becomes more harmful to the species and to the human race, most commonly harmful to women who are pregnant and young children that range in age from newborn to 3 years of age. The problem still exists with adults but is not as high of a risk hazard. With the given nutritional facts of Fish they can become a healthy diet for women who are in their reproductive stages. This is mostly from the omega- 3 fatty acid which helps with the neurological development of the fetus. However, some fish species contain considerable methyl mercury, which inhabits the placenta and has many various harmful effects on neurobehavioral development which exists during the pregnancy. The most common effects of methyl mercury on the fetus have been brain damage, learning disabilities, and even hearing loss. In some of the more severe cases the effects of methyl mercury to the fetus can result in death of the fetus. With these findings Doctors have advised women who are pregnant to have a very low intake of fish as it can be very harmful on the fetus during the trimesters of pregnancy. With this being said methyl mercury can also be harmful to anyone who is exposed, although not as severe, the threat of infection to the body still exists.
Methyl mercury has many ways it can harm and infect us. Methyl mercury in food, such as aquatic organisms like fish, is particular health hazard because they are taken up into the body through the stomach and intestines. It can be a very harmful and acts like a poison to our nervous system and increases in exposure may affect the heart and circulatory system. Although very far from conclusive some of the evidence has been made that methyl mercury can cause cancer in humans, not proven in its entirety there are still ongoing tests to prove that methyl mercury may be a possible cause to cancer, one of the more serious threats from methyl mercury. Exposure to methyl mercury in humans caused by fish varies on the species and environment of the fish and its exposure to industrial pollutants. Although eating fish once or twice a week can prevent and reduce the risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic conditions. The possible risks are frightening. With the numerous pollutants that make their way into the foods we eat like fruits and vegetables to eggs and meat. Fish are no exception. Methyl mercury is one of the most controversial concerns of today. Polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, and pesticide residues are also among the concerns in the contamination of our food. With high levels of methyl mercury it can damage nerves in adults and disrupt development of the brain and the nervous system in a fetus or young child. The controversy still exists on lower levels of methyl mercury. However progress made on different studies has shown that there were small changes in the nervous system development and also a possible increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
A balance could be formulated which would conclude that staying in the regulated serving sizes of fish per week would be a benefit. Not consuming fish could increase your risk for heart disease. This is due to the lack of the very important omega 3 that our bodies need to help fight off heart disease and other infections. However if studies have been proven that you can in fact get cancer from consuming to much methyl mercury found in fish then it is still is suggested and even recommended that if you stay in the appropriate servings of fish you would be better off and benefit. The warnings for women who are in their reproductive stages still stand as set in their appropriate guidelines. If these guidelines are strictly and thoroughly followed by women in their reproductive stages and who are pregnant, eating fish would have a healthy benefit to the fetus and to themselves as well.
In conclusion the risks of consuming methyl mercury can be severely devastating. The positives are based only on the dietary nutrition found in fish which are omega-3 and natural fats. With risks such as damage to your nervous system, damaged blood vessels, disrupting of brain and its development, and even the threat of cancer makes it imperative that you follow your dietary guidelines and consult with your doctor in certain situations in which problems occur. Most of these results are conclusive, but there are still ongoing tests and new research being on methyl mercury and its effects on the environment and humans.

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